in north america, two extremely popular "a.m." small bread choices (besides the bagel), are either the english muffin or, full-of-holes, crumpet. both are readily available in supermarkets and conveniently come in packages of 6 to 8. many people mix up the two, however. well, at least linguistically for the most part.
while closely related to each other, they are not the same. the crumpet, soft and spongy, and characterized by its network of holes and channels due to the viscosity of its batter, is made in metal rings to maintain its shape. it is always eaten as a whole. the english muffin is more like a small tight-grained bread, made from a stiffer dough which is either hand shaped into "muffins" or cut into shape after being rolled out. usually coated with fine cornmeal or rice flour, it is either pulled apart with two forks or sliced open with a knife and then toasted.
the following recipe for english muffins is one amongst many. this particularly easy one uses a standard mix-knead-rise-shape method, whereas others involve making a poolish (starter) and longer waiting periods. the recipe also incorporates wholewheat /meal/ flour in a small quantity and bread /"strong"/ flour. standard recipes for english muffins use milk but it can be replaced with soy milk, making these non-dairy and suitable for those maintaining a vegan diet.
whether eaten toasted or not, these little "muffins" are equally good with a sweet topping like jam or preserves as they are topped with a poached egg. making a double batch will save you time later from having to repeat the process. they can be frozen quite successfully and taken out one-by-one for those times when you don't want toast or the standard bagel. you can also take satisfaction in knowing you made these yourself and they contain no unnatural ingredients.
makes 8 (or more)
398 g bread flour (14 oz)
58 g wholewheat flour (2 oz)
2 tsp instant type yeast (or regular: see recipe*)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
142 ml warm water (5 oz)
170 ml milk or soymilk (7 oz)
2 tbsp fine cornmeal or rice flour (gritty type)
mix the two flours with the salt and sugar in a large bowl. do not add the yeast yet.
measure out the water and milk and warm it in the microwave or on stove top. it should be fairly warm but not hot. if you can keep your finger in there until the count of 10 without it burning, it's ready.
place the dry ingredients without the yeast in the bowl in the microwave and heat it for 30 seconds. this well warm up the flour.
add the yeast and stir everything well. *if using regular active dry yeast, add it with a little sugar in the warm water-milk until it proves, approx. 10 minutes.
add the liquid and stir until it becomes shaggy.
mix it with your hands until you get a ball of dough.
knead this dough for a good 10 minutes.
place the kneaded dough in a greased bowl and cover. set aside in a warm place like an oven with the pilot light on for at least an hour. it needs to double.
once doubled, knock it back (i.e. press down on it) but do not reknead it.
take the dough out of the bowl as is and roll out to a 1/2 - 3/4" thickness on a surface that has been dusted first with either fine cornmeal or british style rice flour (gritty like the finest sand, not floury) and cut it into 8 rounds (~3 inches in diameter). you can bake the scraps as extra little treats or to give to the kids.
the alternate, and quite traditional way of making these is to separate the dough into 8 balls and form little "muffins", meaning little flattened cakes (see below).
place these on a baking sheet and cover. let rise again for 1/2 hour. they will inflate on their own.
about 25 minutes into waiting, heat up a griddle type pan or cast iron pan over medium heat.
carefully place 4 of the muffins around the circumference of the heated pan and not in the center as it is too hot.
cook the muffins on each side for about 6 to 7 minutes. they should be a yellowish golden brown.
the common practice is to check the "waists" of the muffins by pressing on either side to gauge if they are fully cooked.
split the muffins with a fork (traditional) or cut with a serrated knife. notice that the interior texture is like more of a bread than that of the crumpet which is full of holes.